NAMM 2014: A Report from Dan Feinberg

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Last week I once again attended the amazing NAMM show. As I noted last year, it's one of the happiest places on earth and not just because it's next door to Disneyland. I entered through the drum hall to hundreds of sets of drums being demonstrated, tested, and played--all at the same time. You would think it would be just noise, but the drums all blended into a wonderous sound. One young man in particular was playing amazingly well..somehow I think we'll be hearing from him in the future.

This year I became more aware than ever the global aspect of the NAMM show as there were musical instrument companies from all over the world, but, unlike CES, the most well known and most famous still seem to be from the U.S.

I keep two goals in mind when visiting NAMM, and one of them is, of course, looking to see how technology influences the music industry. After all, those of us who have spent our lives in the tech industry are always interested in looking back at where we've been and looking forward to where we're going. One always is aware of the large numbers of well-known musicians and celebrities walking the NAMM floor as visitors. Following are a few pictures of some big names in the music industry. Do you recognize them all? This is just a tiny fraction of those walking the show floor. It's amazing--they all look older so, just like the rest of us, they are mere mortals.

Let’s take a look at technology in the music industry in 2014. There were many new amplifiers and mixing boards--most with new technology with the ability to duplicate a vacuum tube sound with modern electronics, but retaining a retro look.

In addition there was an amazing keyboard instrument by Lowery. At first glance it looks like an electronic organ, but look carefully...the ability to program and play made this instrument truly sound like a full orchestra. The amount of circuitry in this unit would have probably taken up half a studio back in the day.


As far as classic musical instruments go, there were many truly beautiful examples--true pieces of art--but I did see one true example of a technical evolution. Many guitar and bass players tend to modify their instruments. I know I have replaced pickups, changed wiring, and mixed and added custom parts over the years. This year, Fender was showing the past, present, and future of their classic Stratocaster guitar. They had a 1954 classic Strat (I used to own one back in the '50s) and the present model, but they also announced the next generation with easily exchangeable pickups and “personality cards.” These active cards plug into the instrument and, once inside, convert it into a custom beast where you can design your own instrument in many ways. By swapping out the card you can have a totally different guitar. One has to wonder why this has not been done before.

I must say that NAMM is perhaps the most fun show to cover--there's lots of things and people to see and hear. The show is held in the Anaheim Convention Center and just being there reminds me of the old NEPCON days in the '70s and '80s, but it certainly looks and sound different than any other show you'll ever attend.



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